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I was a live-in babysitter more than thirty years ago, for two boys — one still in diapers. Around that time I decided to never have any children of my own, a commitment I’ve kept.
The kids weren’t to blame. In fact, they were relatively well-behaved. But some of us just aren’t cut out to be babysitters or nannies (or fathers).
On the other hand, if you enjoy the company of children more than I do, this is a good time to consider watching kids as a way to make some extra cash. Since the 1980s babysitting rates have risen much faster than inflation, and babysitters are now making more than ever.
For example, babysitters in San Francisco, where rates are the highest according to Business Insider, charge an average of over $17 per hour. That brings us to the first of our strategies for making more money babysitting…
1. Babysit in the Right Place
Rates for babysitting tend to be higher in bigger cities than in small towns, but they also vary across the country according to local incomes and demand. For example, a rate chart on SitterCity pegs the average rate at $14.92 per hour for an adult sitter in Boston, but only $10.33 per hour in Columbus, Ohio.
Of course, unless you’re a full-time nanny you probably aren’t going to move just to charge a higher rate. But if you live near a high-demand city you might consider commuting there for babysitting gigs is worth the extra pay.
Also, in general people with more money are willing to pay more. So in whatever city you call home it makes sense to prospect for new clients in the wealthier neighborhoods.
2. Babysit for Bigger Families
It’s reasonable to charge more when you have more kids to watch, but how much more?
SitterCity suggests that beyond the base rate for one child you can charge $1 to $2 more per hour for each additional child.
The typical surcharge appears to vary by location, but as an example, Business Insider gives these averages for Denver:
- One child: $12.22 per hour
- Two children: $13.89 per hour
- Three children: $16.71 per hour
3. Babysit for Several Families at Once
If you babysit at home you have the opportunity to watch kids from more than one family, and charge full rate for each child. Just be sure your clients know this is what you’re doing.
Also, be sure you’re not violating any laws, like providing daycare without a license. See the section on legal matters below for more about this.
4. Join an Babysitting Organization
Putting your profile on a babysitting website helps you find more clients, making it more likely that you’ll get higher-rate jobs. Here are a few you can try:
- SitterCity.com – For babysitters an account is free, because they charge parents for the service. They also claim that they connect a family with a new sitter an average of every nine seconds.
- Care.com – There are free and paid membership levels for babysitters.
- UrbanSitter.com – You can use this platform for free.
Which is better? A review of Care versus SitterCity by Anne-Marie Lindsey, an experienced nanny, suggests that SitterCity is simpler and cheaper (Care tries to sell you additional services and better placement in their results).
Lindsey even skipped the $60 “enhanced background check” on SitterCity. She says that doing so “doesn’t seem to be getting in the way of me getting a job.”
Reviews of UrbanSitter are mixed, but the more recent reviews appear to be mostly negative.
Of course, you can sign up for several free services and skip the extras to keep it cheap and get more exposure.
5. Check Job Websites
Finding more clients in any way means better odds of higher pay, so check for advertisements and place your own.
6. Advertise Your Services With Your Price
You can advertise your services for free on Craigslist and on bulletin boards. Make it clear that you’re offering a superior service and state you higher-than-average rate clearly. A high rate might mean fewer gigs, but you’ll be paid well for the ones you get.
Business card are another relatively inexpensive way to market yourself.
7. Get Certified
One thing parents will pay more for, according to SitterCity, is a babysitter with certifications. Here are some inexpensive ones you can get:
- American Red Cross Babysitting & Advanced Child Care Certification – Online courses are inexpensive; $29 for “Babysitting Basics,” and $35 for “Advanced Child Care.”
- ProTrainings Free CPR Training – You can take and repeat lessons for free until you pass the test, but you do pay for the certificate.
- FirstAidForFree.com – No charge for the first aid and CPR course, and they say, “Once you’re done, you can download a free first aid & CPR certificate.”
8. Babysit Early and Late
Parents will usually pay more for babysitters who work late at night or start very early in the morning. If you specialize in these gigs raise your rate by a dollar or two per hour.
Overnight gigs are sometimes worthwhile because even if you don’t make more per hour, you make more for the actual work you do. After all, while the kids sleep, you’re free to take a nap, work online, or watch TV, and the longer hours mean a higher total gig rate.
9. Babysit on High-Rate Days
As with any other business, pricing is a function of supply and demand. On some days there are fewer willing babysitters, and that reduced supply makes it possible to charge higher rates. On other days there are more parents looking for babysitters, and that increased demand allows you to ask for more..
For example, many parents want to go out on New Year’s Eve, so there is high demand for babysitters. The result? The New York Post reports that parents are paying babysitters as much as $60 per hour on News Year’s Eve.
Valentine’s Day is another high-demand date. Events like big concerts or festivals coming to town can also cause a surge in demand that allows you to charge higher rates.
Lower supply is less common, but it does happen in college towns during summers and other school breaks, when college students who sideline as babysitters are away. You should be able to bump up rates during these times.
10. Do More Than Babysit
SitterCity says parents should expect to pay more for extra services. Cleaning up after the kids is part of ordinary babysitting duties, but there are some extra tasks that, if requested (or suggested by you) should allow you to charge a higher rate:
- Helping the kids with homework
- Doing laundry
- Picking children up at school
- Taking the kids to events or appointments
- Cooking large meals
- Any deep cleaning of the house
11. Check the Going Rates
If you don’t know what other babysitters are charging you might set your rate too low. You can do a quick rate survey by looking at ads babysitters have placed on Craigslist.
You can also gather information on the babysitting platforms. Open a free account as a parent if necessary, in order to get access to the profiles and rates for babysitters in your area.
Care.com has a babysitting rate calculator where you can enter your zip code, experience and other criteria to get a suggested rate.
In their categories of caregivers, Care.com includes “Special Needs” and “Tutors.” If you have experience with special-needs children or are willing to babysit while tutoring, you can charge more for your services.
Also, if you’re not sure you want to watch kids, there are several categories of adult care. For example, running errands for and hanging out with elderly folks might be more profitable and more relaxing than dealing with kids.
13. Grow Up
In general adult babysitters are paid more than teenagers, but the difference is not that great. The rate chart on SitterCity shows a difference of less than 50 cents per hour in most cities.
Of course you can’t change your age in any case, but if you’re young it might help to present yourself as older and more mature.
Are You Babysitter Material?
I’m not a good babysitter. I know this. And you probably know whether or not you have what it takes to do this work. But just in case, here’s a list of good babysitter traits from Care.com:
- A Role Model
If you’re still not sure you have what it takes to be a babysitter, offer your services to family and friends cheaply or even for free, just to see how it goes.
An employer has tax and regulatory compliance issues to take care of, like paying payroll taxes and buying workman’s compensation insurance. Most parents don’t want to deal with those responsibilities just to have someone watch their children.
So how do you (and your clients) know if you’re legally defined as an independent contractor or an employee? The IRS has some guidelines for determining your employment status.
To start with, the IRS says, “A worker who performs child care services for you in his or her home generally is not your employee.” In other words, if you watch the kids at your place you’re an independent contractor.
But be aware;, if you watch kids in your own home you might be considered a daycare operator. In that case you may need to get a license and meet other requirements.
The laws regulating child care or daycare vary by state. For example, the law in Illinois says you need a child care license if you watch more than three children at home. Keep it to three or less and you’re fine (although that limit includes your own kids if they’re under 12 years old.
Check the state-by-state guide to daycare law on Daycare.com to see what you have to do to avoid being classified as a daycare provider. Or check it to see what you have to do to become one, which might be a way to really boost your babysitting income.
If you babysit at parents homes the IRS guidelines suggest that it’s best to have more than one client, because that makes it less likely you’ll be seen as an employee.
Also, it’s safest to collect less than $2,000 per year from any one client. This is because if, for some reason, you are classified as a “household employee” the client doesn’t need to withhold income taxes and pay social security taxes as long as your total pay is under that $2,000 limit.
If you have any doubt about any of this it’s a good idea to consult with a tax specialist.
If you have worked as a babysitter, tell us about your experience and how much you charged… and keep on frugaling!